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Daily Mail launches McKinnon campaign

Wheelie-bin warriors mobilised in support of Pentagon hacker

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The Daily Mail has launched a high-profile campaign supporting Gary McKinnon's fight against extradition to the USA.

The red-baiting, Romany-hating paper criticises US authorities for treating a "naive hacker" interested in uncovering evidence of extraterrestrial life on poorly-secured Pentagon systems as a dangerous cyber-saboteur.

The paper also lambasts UK politicians for meekly going along with US demands in a front-page article. An associated online petition to the new Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, calls on him to use his discretion in order to block extradition proceedings against McKinnon, a recently diagnosed sufferer of Asperger's Syndrome.

Such a move would allow for McKinnon to be tried in the UK, avoiding the trauma of a US trial followed by the likelihood of an extended spell behind bars.

The wholehearted support of the influential daily paper is a major fillip to the McKinnon campaign, which has already attracted high-profile supporters including Pink Floyd's David Gilmour, London mayor Boris Johnson and former Beirut hostage Terry Waite.

Lord Carlile, the independent reviewer of anti-terror laws, and Oscar-winning actress Julie Christie have also voiced support for McKinnon's fight against extradition.

McKinnon admits taking advantage of weak password security to root around US military and NASA systems back in 2001 and 2002 but denies claims that he caused $700,000 in damage in the process. He was first arrested and questioned by UK cops in 2002, but it wasn't until 2005 that the US began extradition proceedings.

The long-running campaign against extradition included failed appeals to the House of Lords and the European Court of Human Rights last summer. These legal actions happened before McKinnon was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome.

McKinnon's last hope against avoiding extradition rests with two judges who are due to review the decision by UK prosecutors not to prosecute McKinnon in the UK during a hearing scheduled for Tuesday, 14 July. The same two judges - Lord Justice Stanley Burnton and Mr Justice Wilkie - heard arguments that the then Home Secretary Jacqui Smith was wrong to allow McKinnon's extradition to proceed following his diagnosis with a mild form of autism at an earlier hearing.

A decision on the first hearing was "reserved" pending consideration of the other judicial review. ®

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